Studies have found remote workers are more productive, healthier, and enjoy a more positive work-life balance.
Challenges for remote teams
Tracking tasks and productivity
Working from different locations, time zones, etc.
Dealing with language and cultural differences
Challenges for remote workers
Unplugging after work
In Part 1 we looked at Managing Projects and Remote Collaboration. In this post, we will focus on Tracking tasks and productivity & Working from different locations, time zones, etc.
#3: Tracking tasks and productivity
Now we’re getting into some of the more complex problems of managing remote teams. To hit big targets, you’ve got to make sure all the smaller tasks are getting completed in a timely manner. Keeping track of the progress multiple remote workers are making on a daily basis can be a daunting prospect. How can you keep track of progress on individual tasks while also keeping a keen eye on project-wide progress? Well, the project management tools we looked at earlier will help you do that in a reactionary sense. In other words, they’ll show you when team members have started tasks and finished them, but you only get this information after these interactions take place. They don’t really give you live feedback or tell you how productive team members are being while they work on tasks.
How to solve this problem
To get a more real-time look at team progress, you’ll want a project management tool like Status Hero. The platform prompts team members to provide quick “check-in” details about what they’re currently working on so you can see what everyone’s up to at any given time.
Team members can see what everyone else is currently working on, what they got up to yesterday, their availability status, and any “blockers” that are getting in the way of completing tasks. This means no interruptions when people are working on something important and a reduction in pointless messages like “Are you available now?” or “Have you started [task] yet?”. In terms of maximising productivity, the first thing you want to know is how long tasks are taking. Toggl has this covered for you by tracking the time it takes to complete tasks, which you can use as benchmarks to maintain and improve turnaround times, as well as pinpoint issues getting in the way of productivity. You can also discover which tasks individual team members are most time-efficient with, allowing you to assign tasks to the most suitable person.
#4: Working from different locations, time zones, etc.
One of the greatest freedoms remote working gives businesses is the ability to hire talent from around the world. The downside is, much of this talent can be working in different time zones, which can put your team out of sync. In some cases, parts of your team could be snoozing while other parts are trying to get things done on the other side of the world. Add this to the freedom remote working gives your team members (maybe they have to or prefer to work in the evenings, for example) and there are no guarantees everyone is going to be switched on when you need them.
How to solve this problem
The best way to solve this problem is to have a few guidelines in place for your team members. Now, you don’t want to start infringing on the freedoms remote working has to offer but there needs to be some kind for balance if productivity is going to be achieved. Ideally, you want the key members of your team to have a fairly regular schedule. It doesn’t necessarily matter when they choose to work, as long as they’re consistent so you generally know when they’re next going to be available. Whether they decide to work specific hours every week or schedule availability time for the week ahead, you generally want to know who is going to be available (and when) on a weekly basis.
In terms of the tools to make this happen, you’re going to want an integrated calendar for teams that pulls everyone’s schedules into a single place. There are plenty of options available and my personal favourite is already integrated with Office365, the humble Calendar, which also allows team members to set availability times. With Microsoft Calendar, managers can see what team members have got coming up and schedule tasks/meetings according to availability – without any of that awful email back-and-forth organisation headache. Even group meetings and collaboration sessions can be set at times suitable for everyone in a matter of clicks. For more immediate availability statuses (when you need something doing now), this is where platforms like Microsoft Teams prove their worth, once again. With Teams, you can always see who’s available right now and Delve gives you greater context by showing you what team members are doing at any given time. This allows team managers to decide whether that task is too important to interrupt.